Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wide heads give hammerhead sharks exceptional stereo view

Date:
November 27, 2009
Source:
Journal of Experimental Biology
Summary:
Why hammerhead sharks have their distinctively shaped heads has puzzled scientists for generations, but now researchers have discovered that hammerheads' wide heads give them an impressive stereo view.

Scalloped hammerhead, Sphyrna lewini.
Credit: Courtesy of Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons

Hammerhead sharks are some of the Ocean's most distinctive residents. "Everyone wants to understand why they have this strange head shape," says Michelle McComb from Florida Atlantic University. One possible reason is the shark's vision.

"Perhaps their visual field has been enhanced by their weird head shape," says McComb, giving the sharks excellent stereovision and depth perception.

However, according to McComb, there were two schools of thought on this theory. In 1942, G. Walls speculated that the sharks couldn't possibly have binocular vision because their eyes were stuck out on the sides of their heads. However, in 1984, Leonard Campagno suggested that the sharks would have excellent depth perception because their eyes are so widely separated. "In fact one of the things they say on TV shows is that hammerheads have better vision than other sharks," says McComb, "but no one had ever tested this."

Teaming up with Stephen Kajiura and Timothy Tricas, the trio decided to find out how wide a hammerhead's field of view is and whether they could have binocular vision and publish their results on November 27 2009 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Hammerheads come in all shapes and sizes so McComb and Kajiura, opted to work with species with heads ranging from the narrowest to the widest. Fishing for juvenile scalloped hammerheads off Hawaii and bonnethead sharks in the waters around Florida, the team successfully landed the fish and quickly transported them back to local labs to test the fish's eyesight.

The team tested the field of view in each shark's eyes by sweeping a weak light in horizontal and vertical arcs around each eye and recorded the eye's electrical activity. Comparing the hammerheads with pointy nosed species, the team found that the scalloped hammerheads had the largest monocular visual field, at an amazing 182 deg., and the bonnethead had a 176 deg. visual field, which was bigger than that of the pointy nosed blacknose and lemon sharks, at 172 deg. and 159 deg., respectively.

Having collected the animals' monocular visual fields, the team plotted the visual fields of both eyes on a chart of each fish's head to see whether they overlapped. Amazingly, they did. The scalloped hammerhead had a massive binocular overlap of 32 deg. in front of their heads (three times the overlap in the pointy nosed species) while the bonnet head had a respectable 13 deg. overlap. And when the team measured the binocular overlap of the shark with the widest hammerhead, the winghead shark, it was a colossal 48 deg. The hammerheads' wide heads certainly improved their binocular vision and depth perception.

Finally, the team factored in the sharks' eye and head movements and found that the forward binocular overlaps rocketed to an impressive 69 deg. for the scalloped hammerheads and 52 deg. for the bonnetheads. Even more surprisingly, the team realised that the bonnethead and scalloped hammerheads have an excellent stereo rear-view: they have a full 360 deg. view of the world.

"When we first started the project we didn't think that the hammerhead would have binocular vision at all. We thought no way; we were out there to dispel the myth," says McComb. But despite their preconceptions, the team have shown that the sharks not only have outstanding forward stereovision and depth perception, but a respectable stereo rear view too, which is even better than the TV shows would have us believe.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Journal of Experimental Biology. The original article was written by Kathryn Knight. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. McComb, D. M., Tricas, T. C. and Kajiura, S. M. Enhanced visual fields in hammerhead sharks. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2009; 212: 4010-4018

Cite This Page:

Journal of Experimental Biology. "Wide heads give hammerhead sharks exceptional stereo view." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091127101034.htm>.
Journal of Experimental Biology. (2009, November 27). Wide heads give hammerhead sharks exceptional stereo view. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091127101034.htm
Journal of Experimental Biology. "Wide heads give hammerhead sharks exceptional stereo view." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091127101034.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Peace Corps is one of several U.S.-based organizations to pull workers out of West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins